Quacking On About Duck Dynasty, Homoeroticism, And The Usefulness Of The Historical-Critical Method

Photo credit: (AP/A&E/Zach Dilgard)

Yesterday, I shared a few of Audrey Assad’s thoughts on the Duck Dynasty imbroglio. Calm, level-headed, in accordance with the longstanding teachings of the Catholic Church, etc.

A few days prior, some of you may have read Austin Ruse’s article at Crisis on The Rise of the New Homophiles. If that title made you think of the recent Planet of the Apes film with a similar title, you’re not alone.

I look younger when I’m on vacation!

The President of the United States would like for you to discuss health insurance over the Christmas and New Years holidays, but you’re going to spend it quacking on about the sinfulness (or not) of homosexuality, gay marriage, etc. Baby Jesus is being born, and you might recall that event for a few hours, but then it will be right back to Duck Dynasty, what A & E and Cracker Barrel did, and other stuff because nothing, not even a religious holiday celebrating the Incarnation, can get in the way of what many are heralding as the most important civil rights issue of all time.

The thing about the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty vs. A&E cause célèbre? It’s that the controversy takes multiple paths. On one hand, see, it’s decried as the evil of political correctness that attempts to muzzle the beliefs of Bible believing Christians vs. a culture that thinks 4,000 year old Judeo-Christian thoughts are damned inconvenient to the spirit of the age.

On the other hand, it’s decried as a constitutional, First Amendment, issue, wherein the right to hold an opinion that differs from your employer is being challenged, because Phil Robertson’s employer put him on hiatus for saying things that the network doesn’t approve of.

In the midst of the media storm over the Robertsons, we’ve also had teenage students at a Catholic school band together to fight the perceived injustice of their Vice-Principal getting fired because he married his same-sex partner. Perhaps the kids don’t recognize the Catholic Church’s teachings on the matter as being valid. And Utah and Ohio are going the way of California and legislating from the bench with judges striking down laws that prevent same-sex marriages.

If you are getting the idea that if it’s gay, it’s news, welcome to December, 2013.

Today, America Magazine published an article that several prominent folks have lauded as being, and I paraphrase, “the best, most cogent, sensible thing about Duck Dynasty I’ve read, period.” I kind of laughed out loud, at that. Joe Six-Pack doesn’t know much, but he knows the limitations of the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis that is on display in the article. Written by John W. Martens, it’s title is Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, the Bible and Homosexuality.

Now Dr. Martens does a great job, don’t get me wrong. But the work, and the conclusions reached, isn’t much different than what our Protestant, sola-scriptura believing, co-religionists, have been coming up with, either.

And dare I mention that all of a sudden we seem to have stumbled onto the answer to the riddle of why the 1st Century—20th Century Christians had only a vague idea of what St. Paul was actually talking about when it came to his writings on the sinfulness of homosexual acts? Thanks to the historical-critical method, though, Eureka! We think we may have finally figured it out. And it just so happens to be kind of ok with where the culture is heading nowadays.

It’s sort of like a Festivus miracle!

Call me skeptical, but this would seem to fly in the face of the evidence that even a cursory glance at what the Early Church Fathers had to say on the matter would lead you to discover. Here, then, are a dozen examples, spanning centuries of Catholic thought on the matter, courtesy of the folks at TFP Student Action.

Church Fathers, a miniature from Svyatoslav’s Miscellany
—Wikipedia Commons

1. Athenagoras of Athens (2nd Century)

“But though such is our character (Oh! why should I speak of things unfit to be uttered?), the things said of us are an example of the proverb, ‘The harlot reproves the chaste.’ For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure – who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonoring the fair workmanship of God.”

I should have stayed home, too.

2. Tertullian (160-225)

His treatise On Modesty is an apology of Christian chastity. He clearly shows the horror the Church has for sins against nature. After condemning adultery, he exclaims:

“But all the other frenzies of passions–impious both toward the bodies and toward the sexes–beyond the laws of nature, we banish not only from the threshold, but from all shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities.”

3. Eusebius of Caesarea (260-341)

Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine and the “Father of Church History,” writes in his book, Demonstratio Evangelica:

“[God in the Law given to Moses] having forbidden all unlawful marriage, and all unseemly practice, and the union of women with women and men with men.”

No, it’s not Jerome Robertson. It’s just Jerome, thanks.

4. Saint Jerome (340-420)

“And Sodom and Gomorrah might have appeased it [God’s wrath], had they been willing to repent, and through the aid of fasting gain for themselves tears of repentance.”

5. Saint John Chrysostom (347-407)

In his sermons about Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he dwells on the gravity of the sin of homosexuality:

“But if thou scoffest at hearing of hell and believest not that fire, remember Sodom. For we have seen, surely we have seen, even in this present life, a semblance of hell. For since many would utterly disbelieve the things to come after the resurrection, hearing now of an unquenchable fire, God brings them to a right mind by things present. For such is the burning of Sodom, and that conflagration!…

“Consider how great is that sin, to have forced hell to appear even before its time!… For that rain was unwonted, for the intercourse was contrary to nature, and it deluged the land, since lust had done so with their souls. Wherefore also the rain was the opposite of the customary rain. Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who hath pandered himself, or what more execrable?

And as wild as I was? I know what I’m talking about.

6. Saint Augustine (354-430)

In his celebrated Confessions, he condemns homosexuality:

“Those offences which be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which hath not so made men that they should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust.”

7. Saint Gregory the Great (540-604)

“Sacred Scripture itself confirms that sulfur evokes the stench of the flesh, as it speaks of the rain of fire and sulfur poured upon Sodom by the Lord. He had decided to punish Sodom for the crimes of the flesh, and the very type of punishment he chose emphasized the shame of that crime. For sulfur stinks, and fire burns. So it was just that Sodomites, burning with perverse desires arising from the flesh like stench, should perish by fire and sulfur so that through this just punishment they would realize the evil they had committed, led by a perverse desire.”

8. Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072)

Doctor of the Church, Saint Peter Damian wrote his famous Book of Gomorrah against the inroads made by homosexuality among the clergy. He describes not only the iniquity of homosexuality, but also its psychological and moral consequences:

“Truly, this vice is never to be compared with any other vice because it surpasses the enormity of all vices.… It defiles everything, stains everything, pollutes everything. And as for itself, it permits nothing pure, nothing clean, nothing other than filth.…

“The miserable flesh burns with the heat of lust; the cold mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion; and in the heart of the miserable man chaos boils like Tartarus [Hell]…. In fact, after this most poisonous serpent once sinks its fangs into the unhappy soul, sense is snatched away, memory is borne off, the sharpness of the mind is obscured. It becomes unmindful of God and even forgetful of itself. This plague undermines the foundation of faith, weakens the strength of hope, destroys the bond of charity; it takes away justice, subverts fortitude, banishes temperance, blunts the keenness of prudence.

“And what more should I say since it expels the whole host of the virtues from the chamber of the human heart and introduces every barbarous vice as if the bolts of the doors were pulled out.”

Remember me?

9. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Commenting upon Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1:26-27), Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, explains why the sin of homosexuality is so grave:

“Given the sin of impiety through which they [the Romans] sinned against the divine nature [by idolatry], the punishment that led them to sin against their own nature followed…. I say, therefore, that since they changed into lies [by idolatry] the truth about God, He brought them to ignominious passions, that is, to sins against nature; not that God led them to evil, but only that he abandoned them to evil….

“If all the sins of the flesh are worthy of condemnation because by them man allows himself to be dominated by that which he has of the animal nature, much more deserving of condemnation are the sins against nature by which man degrades his own animal nature….

“Man can sin against nature in two ways. First, when he sins against his specific rational nature, acting contrary to reason. In this sense, we can say that every sin is a sin against man’s nature, because it is against man’s right reason….

“Secondly, man sins against nature when he goes against his generic nature, that is to say, his animal nature. Now, it is evident that, in accord with natural order, the union of the sexes among animals is ordered towards conception. From this it follows that every sexual intercourse that cannot lead to conception is opposed to man’s animal nature.”

10. Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

You can call me Doctor, but not Father.

Saint Catherine, a great mystic and Doctor of the Church, lived in troubled times. The Papacy was in exile at Avignon, France. She was instrumental in bringing the Popes back to Rome. Her famous Dialogues are written as if dictated by God Himself:

“But they act in a contrary way, for they come full of impurity to this mystery, and not only of that impurity to which, through the fragility of your weak nature, you are all naturally inclined (although reason, when free will permits, can quiet the rebellion of nature), but these wretches not only do not bridle this fragility, but do worse, committing that accursed sin against nature, and as blind and fools, with the light of their intellect darkened, they do not know the stench and misery in which they are. It is not only that this sin stinks before me, who am the Supreme and Eternal Truth, it does indeed displease me so much and I hold it in such abomination that for it alone I buried five cities by a divine judgment, my divine justice being no longer able to endure it. This sin not only displeases me as I have said, but also the devils whom these wretches have made their masters. Not that the evil displeases them because they like anything good, but because their nature was originally angelic, and their angelic nature causes them to loathe the sight of the actual commission of this enormous sin.

11. Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444)

“No sin in the world grips the soul as the accursed sodomy; this sin has always been detested by all those who live according to God.… Deviant passion is close to madness; this vice disturbs the intellect, destroys elevation and generosity of soul, brings the mind down from great thoughts to the lowliest, makes the person slothful, irascible, obstinate and obdurate, servile and soft and incapable of anything; furthermore, agitated by an insatiable craving for pleasure, the person follows not reason but frenzy.… They become blind and, when their thoughts should soar to high and great things, they are broken down and reduced to vile and useless and putrid things, which could never make them happy…. Just as people participate in the glory of God in different degrees, so also in hell some suffer more than others. He who lived with this vice of sodomy suffers more than another, for this is the greatest sin.”

12. Saint Peter Canisius, SJ (1521-1597)

I’m really a Jesuit. Honest!

“As the Sacred Scripture says, the Sodomites were wicked and exceedingly sinful. Saint Peter and Saint Paul condemn this nefarious and depraved sin. In fact, the Scripture denounces this enormous indecency thus: ‘The scandal of Sodomites and Gomorrhans has multiplied and their sins have become grave beyond measure.’ So the angels said to just Lot, who totally abhorred the depravity of the Sodomites: ‘Let us leave this city….’ Holy Scripture does not fail to mention the causes that led the Sodomites, and can also lead others, to this most grievous sin. In fact, in Ezechiel we read: ‘Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her, and of her daughters: and they did not put forth their hand to the needy, and the poor. And they were lifted up, and committed abominations before me; and I took them away as thou hast seen’ (Ezech. 16: 49-50). Those unashamed of violating divine and natural law are slaves of this never sufficiently execrated depravity.”

Head over to TFP’s website for more commentary with all the footnotes, etc.

And what about the Didache? What does that early teaching of the Apostles have to say about the sinfulness of homosexual acts?

Sins against life, sexual sins and abortion: You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.

What’s next? Waiting to hear what Garry Wills’s opinion is on the matter? No thanks. There’s “open minded,” and there’s letting your brain fall out.

You know what all of this reliance on historical-critical methods reminds me of? It reminds me of the old CBS Radio Workshop episode that was aired on Veterans Day in the Year of Our Lord, 1956. The title of the show was Report on the WeUns.

“Report on the WeUns” takes place 6,000 years in the future (at the time the story was written) in 7,956 AD. African archaelogists have begun to unearth ruins of an ancient civilization in the continent to the west–the USA–and are desperately attempting to piece together this curious and extinct people from extremely diverse and fragmentary bits of recordings, inscriptions, crumbling monuments and buried buildings. Nathan uses this far future perspective not only to pierce the fumbling attempts of the scholars to accurately interpret these scattered remnants of a lost civilization, but more importantly he uses it to satirize the present.

If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat.

Joyeux Noël!

Related:

The Atlantic: The Genuine Conflict Being Ignored in the Duck Dynasty Debate.

The Anchoress: I am “THE MOMMA BEAR of New Homophiles!

Rod Dreher: In Praise Of Phil Robertson’s American Wilderness.

  • http://www.lesbiansinmysoup.com/ Katy

    Another early writing that deals with homosexuality is the Apocalypse of Peter (not to be confused with a Gnostic writing of the same name) which didn’t make the canon but looked to be in the running for a while. It was mentioned as canonical by some early writers and there’s no reason to think its exclusion was owing to doctrinal problems.

    Anyway, Peter’s apocalypse is largely a vision of Hell and its punishments, and includes: “Other men and women cast themselves down from a high slope and came to the bottom and were driven up by their torturers to go up the precipice and were then thrown down again, and had no rest from this torture. These were those who defiled their bodies, behaving like women. And the women with them, these were those who behaved with one another as men with a woman.”

    That’s… unambiguous.

  • http://www.lampofthebody.com/ Dave Zelenka

    “Ezechiel we read: ‘Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom: pride,
    fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of her, and of her
    daughters: and they did not put forth their hand to the needy, and the
    poor.”

    This is why we must become poor. When we are a poor church once again, this particular type of sin will have no home. It is out of a false-sense of abundance that this vice takes over people’s lives. Affluence leads to this sort of sin.

  • davisbabs

    A-hahahah! Thank you so much for the link to Nathan’s “Report on the WeUns”! I had never heard the whole thing, but I have been familiar with it since my teens (I’m now retired…), with an adaptation by Theodore Bikel on a still-cherished record album…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/ Frank Weathers

      That’s great radio, right there. :)


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